Tuesday morning’s edition of The New York Times led with a bombshell–a leaked list of questions that Robert Mueller reportedly wants to ask Donald Trump as part of the investigation into Russia’s effort to hack the election. Predictably, that set off a 280-character conniption fit from Trump.
Reading the questions, it’s easy to see why this revelation hit a nerve in the White House. Among other things, Mueller wants to know more about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump’s repeated threats to have Mueller fired, and Trump’s discussions with longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Clearly, Mueller wants to know if Trump obstructed justice.
But it turns out that the questions were actually created by a member of Trump’s own legal team. According to The Washington Post, Trump’s legal team had a rather heated discussion with Mueller on March 5. When Mueller threatened to subpoena Trump if he wasn’t willing to talk voluntarily, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that Mueller might ask Trump. It was that list that wound up in the hands of The Times.
Even before word got out that Sekulow compiled the list, suspicions already abounded that the Trump team may have leaked the questions. One of the first to raise that possibility was ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams. Watch here.
On Tuesday’s edition of “Good Morning America,” Abrams told host George Stephanopoulos that The Times’ source was quoting from “a list of questions that Mueller’s team read to them.” He believes that someone on Trump’s side created this list, and in turn gave it to someone outside the Trump legal team.
CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin was equally certain that the leak came from Trump. On CNN’s “New Day,” Zeldin suggested that the manner in which the questions were written suggested that the list came from the Trump side. Watch here.
Zeldin, who served as a special counsel to Mueller in the 1990s when Mueller headed the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, told hosts Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota that the list was shot through with grammatical errors. “Lawyers don’t write questions this way, in my estimation,” he said. Zeldin suspected that these came from “notes that the White House has taken” during a conversation with Mueller’s team, aand that Trump’s team “expanded upon the conversation to write them out as questions.”
Amanda Marcotte of Salon believes that if these questions did come from Trump, The Times has an obligation to call Trump out. Marcotte doubts that anyone from Mueller’s camp was responsible for the leak, given that Mueller is “notoriously tight-lipped.” That leaves Trump’s camp as “the only realistic alternative source.” Marcotte believes that if that’s the case, it would be SOP for Trump, given his long history of manipulating the media–including “planting stories in the press while pretending they didn’t come from him.”
To Marcotte’s mind, if Trump’s people are the source of the leak, there is but one course for The Times.
“Protecting sources is sometimes important, if those sources are genuine whistleblowers who fear retaliation. But if this is a case of the president’s men using the press as a weapon to sow confusion and misinformation, then the journalists at the paper of record need to stop chasing clicks and pay attention to their duty to democracy.”
So is Trump pitching a hissy fit over a leak from his own lawyers? Once again, we find ourselves asking questions about this president that we should not even have to ask.
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